Preparing to take aim with guidance from instructor
Lou Cabassa (Credit: Edwin Fancher)
My father and I have long shot trap
together at our club in Carmel, New York. Every Sunday morning for nine months
of the year we drive upstate to shoot two or three rounds. Although we both
have enjoyed the sport for many years, we have never had any formal instruction,
and we were both interested in learning new techniques to improve our skills.
So on a Friday evening we drove to Millbrook, New York to take classes
at Orvis’s Sporting Clays School.
Early Saturday morning after introductions
and handshakes, James Ross, senior instructor, showed a video about gun safety
and an overview of the sport. A brief orientation followed. We were then measured
for guns. Twelve-gauges are more powerful, but we were given 20-guage ones.
This has no effect on technique but it ensures that no one will leave with bruised
shoulders from the kick of their shotguns. Next students went into the woods
in small groups of three or four to walk from station to station with an instructor.
Although it is men who chiefly engage
in sporting clays, women are starting to get interested in it, too. The game
was imported from Great Britain and evolved from field shooting of water fowl,
as did skeet and trap. It is, however, more like wingshooting.
In sporting clays the participant
goes to a series of predetermined positions in a forest and at a certain moment
is confronted with one or several small orange clay discs at which he aims.
Unlike trap and skeet, in which participants stand with their guns held ready
when the target appears, in sporting clays shooters stand with their guns held
lower and only raise them when the target is sent flying. This better approximates
the position a hunter would generally start from when he spots a bird, since
he would be unlikely to walk through the woods for hours at a time with a gun
mounted and ready. In two days of instruction (you can sign up for one day,
also) we fired about 500 times at clay birds coming from every conceivable position.
Sometimes two would come from different directions and we would aim at both.
At other times birds would come from behind and fly over our heads. Our main
instructor, Lou Cabassa, painstakingly continued to demonstrate proper procedures
and correct our fledgling efforts to hit each bird.
Orvis was the first shooting school
in the United States to offer instruction in the English Churchill method of
wingshooting and the highly skilled and experienced instructors are among the
best teachers of this method on this side of the Atlantic. The style is designed
for hunting birds, which, needless to say, tend to be a good deal more unpredictable
in their timing and direction than clay targets.
While shotguns and sporting clays
may seem daunting to a newcomer, the staff's attitude, approach and personal
attention to each student insures that even novices will become comfortable
with their guns and will be hitting targets in no time. Everyone we spoke with
enjoyed their time in the class and found it worthwhile, regardless of prior
experience. Lester Lamando from Rockland County, New York had never before handled
a firearm, but was an eager student who quickly became comfortable firing a
shotgun. Another member of our group was an experienced fowl hunter who had
driven from North Carolina to improve his technique with the seasoned professionals
who teach at the school. Benjamin Wright, a bank executive from New Jersey,
had used rifles and pistols all his life and had been an artillery officer in
the marines for several years during which time he used a wide assortment of
weapons, including heavy artillery.
Originally built over 200 years ago,
Sandanona is the oldest shooting club in the country. Although the club
was purchased by Orvis seven years ago in order to use the facility for their
school, it still maintains a private club, which you can join for a fee and
which includes the right to use its uplands preserve from September 1 to March
Sandanona facilities have beautiful
grounds and buildings, with a well-stocked Orvis store, a bright and airy dining
room and a cozy lounge complete with a fireplace and an excellent selection
of cigars. While attendees must make their own arrangements for breakfast, dinner
and lodging, there are several excellent accommodations and restaurants in the
area. Lunch is catered by a local company and we found the meals they served
to be consistently delicious.
Among the services included during
the weekend is a custom gun measurement and fitting by a professional gunsmith.
As is the case in any other activity which requires custom equipment, finding
a shotgun that fits the individual is the key to top performance and enjoyment.
Once made, these measurements can be used to purchase a shotgun of the appropriate
dimensions. Orvis also conveniently keeps these measurements on file in case
students misplace their copies.
Finally at the end of the weekend
you are presented with a Certificate of Achievement, which certifies that you
have completed the course of instruction offered at the school.
Orvis Sandanona, P.O. Box 450,
Millbrook, NY 12545, Tel. 845-677-9701. Open year-round, except for Christmas
and Thanksgiving. In addition to sporting clays, Sandanona offers courses in
fly-fishing and wingshooting. The other shooting schools are located in Manchester,
Vermont and Mays Pond, Florida. Tuition at the Sandanona School is $450 for
one-day or $900 for two-days. www.orvis.com/intro.asp?subject=296
Orvis recently added the following classes to the Clay Target School:
September 7-8, Harpoles Heartland Lodge, Nebo, IL; tel. 800-777-hunt, fax
217-734-2559, email firstname.lastname@example.org
September 14-15, Harris Springs, Augusta, GA; tel. 864-677-3448, fax 864-677-3918,
October 19-20, 26-27, Barnsley Gardens, Adairsville, GA ; tel. 877-773-2447
or 770-773-7480, email email@example.com